Remarks by Angel Gurría
21 April 2020
The OECD estimates the impact of the crisis at a loss of 2 percent per month of confinement in annual GDP growth in 2020. Many economies are heading into deep recession.
In the midst of this crisis, agriculture and food remains an essential sector that needs to keep functioning. Globally, there is enough food, but the crisis is affecting demand and disrupting food supply chains. How damaging these effects are will depend on national and international policy responses.
We see four areas that Agriculture Ministers should prioritise:
First, we need to ensure global food security by keeping international markets open, transparent and predictable. Export restrictions inflate international food prices, undermine global supplies and threaten global food security. We need to facilitate the movement of food across borders, and ensure that any border measure to contain the spread of COVID-19 is science-based, non-discriminatory, transparent, and notified to the WTO. The OECD is working as part of AMIS to monitor policy responses to COVID-19 and to support cooperative dialogue to keep global food markets functioning and feeding people.
Second, we need to coordinate and work closely with the private sector to limit food supply chains disruptions. Together, countries should work to limit the effects of food shortages in local markets and avoid food loss and waste, by facilitating the movement of food, including in quarantined areas, and by addressing seasonal labour shortages in particular by facilitating migrant workers’ entry or drawing on displaced workers.
Third, we need to support the food and nutrition needs of vulnerable populations in our own countries, as well as globally. It is estimated that half a billion people could be pushed into poverty as economies around the world shrink due to the pandemic. We need to ensure adequate support to developing and low-income countries, for whom the virus could be much more damaging and many of whom rely on global markets for essential food supplies. In some cases, direct food assistance may be a valuable way of addressing immediate needs.
Lastly, the crisis is also an opportunity to build more resilient and sustainable agriculture and food systems, all in the face of climate change. OECD work – from market outlook and policy monitoring to country-level analysis – can help inform your actions on COVID and to ensure the efficient, effective and equitable use of scarce public resources, while paving the way for a more sustainable and inclusive recovery.
Count on the OECD!